If you want to feel like you are sixty miles north in the White Mountains, take the Oak Hill Trails (Click link for map) (Click here for map text). I started my blog saying Marjory Swope Park and Winant Park were jewels in the Concord trail system. Oak Hill Trails may be the crown jewel. I parked in the parking area and took the tower trail until I took a left onto the Dancing Bear Trail and out to the Swope Slope Vista.
From the Vista you can see Kearsarge, Ragged and Cardigan mountains. You will pass through some mountain spring pond areas just before and after the Vista. Continuing up the tower trail actually brings you into Loudon where the 980 foot peak is located, about a 500 foot elevation climb from the parking area.
The fire tower is used on high fire danger days, in fact about a month ago a fire off of Bog Road in Concord was called in from the tower. The fire was about 1000 feet behind my home and probably would have caused major damage to homes in the area if it had not been seen.
I took Ron’s Way trail to the Krupa Loop trail on the way down and on the Krupa loop is where I saw the Lady Slipper flowers. (The photo starting this blog post) These members of the orchid family are endangered and very rare. Please stay on the trail and enjoy them with photos only. I believe it is illegal to pick them, and they require a specific soil fungus to grow so transplanting them is also out of the question.
The hike to the fire tower is 2.25 miles, making the trip up and back about 4.5 miles and it took me about four hours. It is a challenging hike in my opinion and I would say bring water and food.
The Curtisville and Batchelder Mill Road Trails (click link for map) (click here for map text) have two parking lots. If you have difficulty walking, parking at the North Curtisville Road parking area will give you a flat trail walk that is easy walking. This area is also wheel chair accessible. I chose to park in the Batchelder Road parking area. (The sign in the parking area says, “Coeyman Park”)
This is one of the oldest settlement areas in Concord. There was a brick making area just north of the parking area, and you will find the very wet swampy ground littered with old bricks some, like the one pictured, mistakes that were discarded. Since the clay in this area is gray I wondered why are the bricks red? It seems iron oxide is added to the clay to make a much stronger brick and this gives the brick its rust red color.
Going down the trail from the parking area you will cross a bridge at the location of the oldest dam site in Concord. Just over the bridge to the right are the foundations of old mills. I like to take the red marked trail on the left as the trail starts up the hill and walk beside the mill stream pond.
A viewing platform overlooks the old pond, and the trail continues with slight ups and downs for another quarter mile before it enters the area known as “Broken Ground”.
If you hike this trail on a cloudy day with no shadows, imagine if there was no trail and you were simply in the woods. The thick growth and lack of ground features would have you disoriented in a very short time. The text history talks about what happened if prisoners escaped into this area, ” The premise was that the area was so rugged one would become disoriented and lost forever.”
I like to take the red trail all the way around the perimeter of the park. It is about 2.4 mile and takes about an hour.
The Riley Trails (click link for map) (click here for map text) are a short trail of a little over a mile and it took me about 35 minutes. From the parking area I took the trail to the Hoit Road Marsh overlook,then took a left and crossed the road to continue on the trail.
The forest floor was covered with newly emerging flowers. Sorry, I don’t know what these purple flowers are called. Feel free to post the answer!
The trail will cross a stream and then take a left over a stone wall. Before taking the left look to your right and you will see a stone foundation. The picture is the back of the foundation area. The trail now goes uphill for a quarter of a mile before cresting a hill and returning you to the parking lot in a counter clockwise loop.
Take a left after crossing the bridge and look for the huge pine a short ways further on the left. How old is this tree? Just before you come to the parking area you will see a huge boulder on the right of the trail. Imagine the glacier that left this rock here 10000 years ago.
The Carter Hill Orchard Trail ( click link for map)(click here for text accompanying map) is kind of like two trails to me.
One trail is an orchard tour which, while probably good cross country sking was not where I wanted to go. I started at the NH Audubon Raptor Observatory tower. This hike starts with a beautiful view of Mt. Warner, Mt. Ragged and Mt Cardigan. (left to right in the picture)
I then headed for the Kalahan K. Emery Memorial Trail and around the pond, which is full of small catfish.
The trail is a farm road at the far end of the pond, and a short ways up on your right is the way to the “High Trail”. I recommend taking this trail for two reasons. First, the “Low Trail” is always wet with lots of mud. Second, the “High Trail rises rapidly then becomes a leisurely walk getting all the hard stuff over when you are fresh. The “High Trail” is about 800 feet above sea level and the hill, called Parsonage Hill, is the highest hill in Concord however it is wooded over and affords no views of the surrounding areas. At the top of the rise the West End Trail will head off to your right. It is clearly marked; don’t go that way. After about a half mile of easy walking the trail coming in from your left, also clearly marked, is your turn to head back towards the orchard. There is one muddy spot on this trail. I suggest staying on this trail until you enter the orchard, again avoiding the “Low Trail” that comes in on the left about a quarter of a mile after the previous turn.
The paths through the orchard are clearly marked. The apple blossoms had not quite opened this day, but in a couple of weeks they will be beautiful. Total mileage is about 1.7 miles (from the lower parking lot) and plan on an hour of walking.
The O’Reilly – Fleetham Trail (clink link for map) (click here for text accompanying map) is a short hike of about a half mile. It is easy walking but I would say children must be closely supervised because the trail runs along the Contoocook river and has train bridge abutment with a twenty foot fall directly into the river. I started straight down the hill from the parking area where you will see an extensive area of blown over trees, all about the same age. Possible wind shear? I do not know. After walking along the river you cross a granite block bridge placed by the Boy Scouts and climb to the old rail road bed.
At the rail road bed a left brings you to a river overlook with slippery pine needles right up to the edge. Caution!
Around this area of the rail road bed you can pick up pieces of coal, which give you an idea of how old this rail line must have been.
The trail follows the rail road bed for a short while, then parallels the bed on higher (and dryer) ground. Before the trail ends you will pass a cemetery where many members of the Runnell family are buried.
This is a good little hike for when you don’t have a lot of time, say a half an hour, and would be good with closely supervised children.